“Rachel and Her Children”
Not all of us are blessed and able to come home to a roof over our head, food on the table, daily necessities, and happy moments to look back on. Some of us are fighting for shelter, starving for food, and praying for a smile. As I read Rachel and Her Children I found myself seeing things from the homeless perspective. Homeless does not necessarily mean they do not have a roof over there head. Homeless now to me means not having a place to feel safe and call your home your own.
As Jonathan Kozol took me through the lives of a few homeless families in New York I quickly learned that my point of view on homeless have been based off of a wrong perspective. I learned that living conditions in not only the Martinique but other hotels are not safe living conditions for parents nor children. Food became something they strived for and prayed they would be able to have. Even if it was just a piece of bread and a glass of milk. Family values had been stripped from families in order to live and stay with their children. Homeless in America are not always who or what you may think they are. They did not choose to be homeless nor enjoy it. As Jonathan Kozol noted “homeless are poor people” (Kozole, pg.5). He also stated that “the homeless in our midst are no longer mainly urban hobos, and bag ladies. In recent months, joblessness has pushed heretofore
self-reliant families into this subculture” (Kozole, pg. 5). I also learned that “90 to 95 percent of those who have no homes are families with children” (Kozole, pg.5) Homeless did not wake up one day and decide that this is the life they wanted to live. Most had lost their jobs, been evicted from their homes, or even lost their homes to a tragedy. As an example Peter and his family lost their home and everything he worked hard for inside of it due to a fire. Then you have families like Kim’s family that is living at the Martinique because she says “her heater went out” (Kozole, pg.93). Everyone has their own story to tell but not one is exactly the same.
Striving for what a family should have isn’t something that I would consider anyone does by choice. I found every women’s story in this book unique to their own. I personally did not find one women that completed chose to be homeless. When you read about Rachel and her four children you do not find her wanting to be at the Martinique by choice. Rachel in my eyes was trying to do her best to be a mother even with the hard courses the Martinique had brought her way. I do believe though that the mothers could have looked for a job a little harder rather than complaining about the struggles they are going through. Although, who are we to say they weren’t trying their hardest? As Holly was just trying to find a place to stay she struggled every night.
Staying outside in the middle of the cold night trying to keep your baby warm while he is sick is not for one to imagine the lifestyle they want to live. In the story of Holly her son was ill and had a stunt put into his head. While she was denied shelter time and time after another she found herself sleeping outside. A lot of the places that had denied her a home was due to her husband David. Holly wanted to be able to stay with Coon 3
her husband, but then again what women wouldn’t want to? I think she wouldn’t have had to be at such a high level of being homeless if she would have just given up her husband. Now this is where family values are being ripped from you.
Cultural, religious, and social expectations of the homeless women were affected by depending on the economic stability. If the economy was not doing well the women would be the first that would be part of the budget cut. Its kind of hard for the women’s expectations of their cultural, religious, and social to stay afloat when there has been a budget cut as big as “32 billion to 9 billion in the current fiscal year” (Kozol, Pg.134) When this would happen women were less...
Cited: 1. Huduser.org (n.d.) Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve. [online] Available at: http://www.huduser.org/publications/homeless/homelessness/ch_2b.html [Accessed: 29 Nov 2012].
2. Kozol, J. (1988). Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America. New York, NY: Crown Publishers
3. The Huffington Post (2012) As California Reluctant To Use Powerful Law, The Number Of Homeless Families Grow. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/09/californias-homeless-crisis_n_1243223.html [Accessed: 29 Nov 2012].
4. Oncentral.org (2012) Los Angeles faces shortage of shelters as number of homeless grows. [online] Available at: http://www.oncentral.org/news/2012/02/21/los-angeles-shelters-arent-enough-alleviate-homele/ [Accessed: 29 Nov 2012].
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